Benjamin A. Schupmann, "Democracy Despite Itself: Liberal Constitutionalism and Militant Democracy" (Oxford UP, 2024)


Seeking a second term as US president in November, Donald Trump joins a roster of politicians whose declared aim is to use legal means to bend democracy to their will and in their interests. The system withstood his first term. In Venezuela, Ecuador, Turkey, and Hungary, the systems didn’t, and they are undergoing stress tests in Israel, Slovakia, and Georgia.

In Venezuela, Turkey and Hungary, elections still happen and parliaments, courts, and media are intact but checks and balances have been steadily eroded as one party bids for sustained majority rule. Since the turn of the millennium, 80% of cases of democratic retreat have taken this form rather than through violence.

Worst of all, “illiberal democracy” is popular. Between 2016 and 2020, Trump added 11 million votes. In 2022, after 12 consecutive years in power, Hungary’s ruling party extended its support. Recent polls show that a third of Americans would prefer a strong unelected leader to a weak elected one while a fifth of French under-35s are indifferent to the prospect of an end to democracy.

In Democracy Despite Itself: Liberal Constitutionalism and Militant Democracy (OUP Press, 2024) Benjamin Schupmann addresses this democratic internal rot and how to defend against it. "Democratic cannibalism is a perennial problem,” he writes. “It is a question of when, not if, popular anti-democratic movements will erupt from within and try to use legal revolutionary methods to devour democracy. Democratic constitution should be designed to provide democrats with the means to defend it and themselves".

Benjamin Schupmann is an Assistant Professor at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. He got his PhD at Columbia University and then taught at Duke Kunshan University and the National University of Singapore. Democracy Despite Itself is his second book. His first – Carl Schmitt's State and Constitutional Theory – was published in 2017.

*The author's book recommendations are Sovereignty Across Generations: Constituent Power and Political Liberalism by Alessandro Ferrara (OUP Oxford, 2023) and Social Acceleration: A New Theory of Modernity by Hartmut Rosa (Columbia University Press, 2013). 

Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Advisors, who also writes the twenty4two newsletter on Substack.

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Tim Jones

Tim Gwynn Jones is an economic and political-risk analyst at Medley Advisors .

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